How a Few Key Influencers Can Spread Your Message

Membership Associations Now September/October 2015 By: Joe Rominiecki

Experts on word-of-mouth marketing share how associations can take advantage of the "majority illusion" effect and leverage the power of influential members of their communities.

In June, researchers at the University of Southern California shared a discovery about the dynamics of social networks: Depending on how well connected they are, just a few people sharing an idea in a large network can make it appear to others that the idea is everywhere. They call it the "majority illusion."

Long before there was theoretical proof, word-of-mouth marketers have sought to harness this power of "influencers."

"Get to those people and they will persuade lots of other people to follow along, and people will do so because they think this is the next big thing, even if it isn't yet," says Brad Fay, chief operating officer at Keller Fay Group and research committee chair at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

A few insights on leveraging the influencers in your membership:

  1. Authenticity sells. "The most important thing, for me, is to always make sure that it is a genuine relationship … that you're going after people who truly love what you do," says WOMMA President Suzanne Fanning.
  2. Social value is a crucial metric. "You may be a relatively low spender yourself, but if you brought in five big spenders to the company, then you have very high social value," says Fay.
  3. Goodwill is on your side. Asking influencers to promote a social good—your mission—may be easier than asking them to promote a product. "Altruism is something that people are very happy to share," Fay says.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Network Broadast."]

Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki is senior editor at Associations Now.